Shelley E. Kohan

Associate Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology
Shelley E. Kohan has been serving the retail industry for over 30 years working in senior leadership positions across various functions including general management, marketing, operations, merchandising, buying, and human resources. Positions include President Shelmark Consulting, Vice President Retail Consulting RetailNext, Executive Vice President Space NK, Vice President Store Operations Saks Fifth Avenue, Operating Vice President Bloomingdale’s, Director of Logistics Macy’s West, and Regional Director Operations Macy’s West. Kohan is a recognized retail expert appearing in the NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CGTN Global Business News, Wall St. Journal, New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Reuters, Fortune, Chain Store Age, The Robin Report, and other publications. She is a webinar and conference speaker appearing at WWD Digital, WWD 20/20, NRF Big Show,, Future of Stores and RIS Retail Executive Summit. Kohan has been honored as a Top Retail Influencer (2016, 2017, 2018) by Vend University. Kohan teaches as a tenured assistant professor both face-to-face and online classes on topics of retail management, case study method, marketing strategies, leadership development, and fashion business practices. Shelley earned a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Penn State University, a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco and an associate’s degree in Merchandising and Buying from the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2019

    Mobile jumps out as retailers get a mixed start to the holiday season

    Mobile purchasing includes smartphones and any mobile devices. Total mobile purchasing (U.S.) in 2018 was $208 billion and will grow to $514 billion by 2022. The percent of mobile last year was 39 percent of total e-commerce and will move to 58 percent in 2022. Breaking down digital commerce by device coming off of Black Friday weekend for total e-commerce, 60 percent is desktop, 35 percent smartphones, 5 percent tablets. The desktop has the highest order value at $157 as compared to smartphones at $109. Retailers who have invested in IT infrastructure, in-store processes and labor to ensure a smoother synchronization of physical and digital commerce including BOPIS strategies will be the winners this holiday.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Ralph Lauren offers consumers a DIY counterfeit-checking tool

    Empowering the consumer will help to educate and allow the purchasers to validate luxury goods. While many companies, even in the moderate price range, have rolled out internal programs to combat counterfeit goods, the issue continues to plague the industry. By giving the power to the consumer, the industry can move towards reducing the number of counterfeit goods being purchased. While there is some intent to purchase counterfeit goods, there are many consumers that purchase these goods unknowingly. The more we can educate and empower the consumer, the better chance the industry has of lowering demand. Unfortunately, while AI-based technologies can begin to reduce the sale of counterfeit goods, the professional fencers will also use AI to thwart the systems.
  • Posted on: 11/04/2019

    Century 21 pops up near Macy’s Herald Square for the holidays

    Pop-up shops are great ways to test markets, expand the brand name and limit the usual operational finances required to open a physical store with a long term lease. Holiday selling is a great time to set up these types of shop since footfall is higher and the shoppers seek newness. Retailers should have holiday pop-up shops as an ongoing strategy. Kudos to C21 for getting market access in such a thriving area, this is a brilliant move by the company and CMO. C21 is the best kept secret in NYC and I'm glad to see them get their name out there more!
  • Posted on: 11/04/2019

    Should McDonald’s CEO have been fired over a ‘consensual relationship’?

    Nikki! You are so right! The policy itself seems to set up employees for failure and is outdated thinking especially since many people meet their significant others at work. Setting up a policy of notifying the employer when people have personal relationships allows for better decisions in regards to determining the impact of work performance and/or favoritism.
  • Posted on: 10/28/2019

    REI’s new #OptOutside message: Save the planet

    REI is creating opportunities for people to be involved and create action. This will resonate with all levels of people and actually helps to provide ways that people can contribute. Especially since REI suggests other ways that people can take action to save the earth if they cannot join a formal program. Initiatives like #OPT to Act and #OptOutside are making REI an employer of choice for the digital natives who are more social responsibly than past generations. Thank you REI for keeping all of us conscious of our surroundings!
  • Posted on: 10/25/2019

    Free next-day shipping hits Amazon in its bottom line

    The math absolutely works for Amazon in the long-term by continuing to build deep loyalty with their core customers. While the expenses may be more by offering next-day shipping, Amazon is working hard behind the scenes to reduce other costs to mitigate the increase on the front side. For example, their recent move to combine return shipments at UPS stores making the returns less costly for Amazon than individual returns. Free next-day delivery will impact the retail landscape and raise consumer expectations. For smaller niche brands the way to combat next-day delivery without losing money is offering differentiated products that the consumer values and will not mind waiting a day or two for the package. On the consumables side, offering subscription delivery can also help to relieve retailers of sending expedited shipments.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Will Barneys find success setting up shops inside Saks Fifth Avenue?

    A licensing agreement between Barneys and Saks may not make sense to the Saks shopper. While Barneys may bring more cutting-edge designers to the Saks portfolio in hopes of driving a younger customer to the legacy Saks retailer, the Millennials and Gen Z customers were not a significant buying power for Barneys today. So taking Barneys and placing the “shop" into a department store (Saks) which is also struggling to capture this young market may not make a lot of sense. Saks and Barneys are not viewed as accessible to the mass market of young fashionistas. With that said, having Saks run the digital assets of Barneys' business would help their business, especially if Barneys' brand is run separately from a customer touchpoint perspective. Saks has done a great job in the digital space for luxury retail over the past few years. Being more nimble and edgy on the digital side of the business for Barneys would move the business forward.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Can Target’s chief merchandising officer turn Bed Bath & Beyond around?

    The Bed, Bath & Beyond brand has such a strong connection to their core customer; they are much loved by the target market. Mr. Tritton with his impressive background and keen understanding of what needs to work well in today's retail environment will be a sure win for the struggling retailer. The biggest challenges he will face are store execution of new initiatives (and legacy systems that may add to the lag time of implementation) and consistency across stores.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2019

    Are legacy CPG brands just naturally digitally-challenged?

    Two best practices that Kellogg’s has established which can help transform other legacy brands are 1.) stewardship at all levels and 2.) securing digital native talent. Today’s digital native workforce composed of Millennials and Gen Z want to work for companies where they believe their work contributes to the overarching goals of the company. Securing digital native talent can feel risky for legacy brands but companies can follow the success of Estée Lauder where reverse mentoring was a tremendous win.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2019

    ThirdLove brings digital bra-fitting to physical retail with its first store

    ThirdLove is an excellent brand with good bra-fitting technology. Women dislike trying on jeans, bathing suits and bras. The biggest issue is lack of consistency in sizing across brands. A woman who is 32b with one brand is 32d at brands that use vanity sizing. Brand consistency in sizing is key to providing retailers with a loyal following. ThirdLove does this well.
  • Posted on: 05/08/2019

    Angela Ahrendts talks about lessons learned at Apple

    Being a steward of the brand is important, as well as believing in the overriding ethos of the brand. Employees at every level should recognize that every interaction they have with a customer is as a brand ambassador, and this applies to decisions made within the company as well.
  • Posted on: 04/30/2019

    Is PetSmart barking up the right tree with its IPO?

    Going public is a great way to raise capital and expand the business, however, with this comes greater accountability to the shareholders unless you level-set expectations. How the funding will be used to further drive profitable strategies will be most important. Chewy has deep loyalty with subscriptions and should look for ways to to drive AOV with their existing customers.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2019

    Who will win the Sephora vs. Ulta beauty competition?

    Both retailers are winners and cater to different market segments (although many customers shop both depending on the product they are seeking). Ulta’s beauty salon keeps the frequency of visit higher which will drive more profitable sales and consistent traffic. Sephora’s cutting edge brands and focus on artistry will continue to drive newness and innovative experiences. Both brands have strong, yet very different, loyalty programs which are successful with their own target markets. Sephora has higher online sales, reported around 30 percent of sales, whereas, Ulta is around 20 percent. However, the most staggering statistic that puts Ulta ahead is that 95 percent of transactions are from beauty Loyalty Club members who are spending on average $200 per year. Honestly, there is room for both in the U.S. market. Where is Blue Mercury?
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Should retailers blame slow sales on the weather?

    Interesting -- as another BrainTrust member already stated, we rarely see weather as the hero of great sales! Retailers certainly do understand the impact of weather on their business, however, more retailers should be using data and analytics to better predict weather related issues. Companies like Planalytics do exactly this for retailers. What needs to change is retailers need to stop blaming weather for poor sales and start talking about how to better understand predictive analytics to better forecast sales. A historical sales planning model is inherently antiquated in today’s technological environment. Additionally, with speed to markets being faster than any previous time in our industry, modifications on allocations should be less complex than 10 years ago.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2019

    What will Angela Ahrendts’ departure mean for Apple’s retail business?

    Apple seems to transition well through departures of their highly seasoned top talent. I will be excited to see where Ms. Ahrendts goes next as it will most likely be a company where the breadth of her skills can be fully utilized. For the current state of business, I would only caution having the top retail person running HR simultaneously may be too large of a responsibility for continued focus on the retail growth. While having HR report to the head of retail can make sense, there should be a key person replacing the HR role.

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